There is a Fox River in Illinois and another in Wisconsin. What, if anything, either one of them has to do with today’s prohibition-era drink, is a matter of speculation only. Since Wisconsin is the swing state of the two this election season, let’s toast the Badger State and it’s version of Medicaid, BadgerCare. That sounds a little odd unless you do a little research and find that the Badger State takes it’s name not from the small mammal but from hardworking and presumably not so well paid iron ore miners who I’m sure could have used decent healthcare.
Today’s drink is a friendly, after-dinnerish spin on an old fashioned. Wisconsin old fashioneds — a drink I’m going to be taking on fairly soon, I think — generally use brandy but this is a drink that works well with a really hearty and powerful whiskey. It also worked well with one whiskey-esque brandy I tried on the sly. It’s a simple drink you can sip quickly or linger over.
The Fox River
2 ounces whiskey (or maybe brandy)
1/2 ounce creme de cacao
4 dashes bitters — preferably peach
1 lemon twist, damn near essential garnish
Combine all the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker or mixing glass with ice, stir for a bit — not too long — and pour into an old fashioned glass with fresh ice, preferably pre-chilled glass. If you want to go super-classy make that one single large ice cube. Next, add your lemon twist, running the backside around the top of the glass and twisting it over the drink to express the oils before dropping it into glass.
You can also build a Fox River in your glass if you’re using small ice cubes, stirring as you would for an old fashioned. Finally, you may serve a Fox River up, straining it into a chilled cocktail glass martini/Manhattan style. Always use the lemon peel. It’s important for cutting the sweetness.
The Fox River is a sweet treat for grown-up drinkers with a lot of heft. I mostly used ryes because rye was specified in one of the first recipes I found. Since the source was The Bourbon Review I initially assumed it was strictly a rye drink. (When Macy’s recommends Gimbels, you pay attention.) However, it’s also very good — sweeter but equally flavorful — with a good bourbon like Maker’s Mark o r Rose’s.
The Bourbon Review recipe, as well as some others, specified Rittenhouse Rye, which has long been my default rye. Not too expensive but it’s 100 proof bottled-in-bond flavor profile is outstanding with most whiskey drinks and that’s definitely the case here. Rittenhouse is probably far too hot and biting for most people to drink straight but, as softened here, it’s just about perfect. Arguably even better was the last of my Clyde Mays Rye, a mellower brew that was peppery and complex enough in flavor to bring plenty to the flavor party. Wild Turkey Rye was also extremely respectable. I went off the reservation once and used a bargain-priced product I’ve sort of fallen for. Christian Brothers Sacred Bond Brandy — a 100 proof tough guy that can hold it’s own with a hearty bonded whiskey and which I’ve been picking up for less than $15.00 a bottle at nearby Mission Wine & Spirits near my North Hollywood lair. Pretty delightful
That being said, even at a four to one ratio, it’s the creme de cacao that dominates the Fox River. I got wind of a new higher-end product from Tempus Fugit which also contains some vanilla and I just needed to try it. I gotta say that on it’s definitely one of the best liqueurs I’ve tasted though it’s a bit pricey at over $35.00 for a fifth. Still, it definitely yielded the tastiest, classiest results. That being said, the simple appeal of the much more affordable Marie Brizzard version was very nice if less subtle.
One final note, I sprang for a bottle of peach bitters but if all you’ve got is Angostura or something similar, it’ll be fine.